Create a simple ruffle by gathering a strip of fabric.

How to Make Bath Towels With Ruffles

by Fern Fischer

Refresh your bathroom decor by adding spiffy ruffles to purchased bath towels, or make your own towels from terry cloth yardage by cutting the terry cloth into the towel size you want and hemming the edges. Although pre-ruffled fabric trims and eyelet ruffles are available for purchase by the yard in many fabric stores, ruffles made from fabric that matches your existing curtains or other accents adds impact to the room. Making gathered ruffles by hand is not difficult. If your sewing machine has a ruffler attachment, the task is even easier.

Gathered Ruffle

Measure the width of the towel. Cut a fabric strip double the towel width and double the finished ruffle depth, increasing each measurement by 1 inch to allow for seams and side hems. For example, to make a 2-inch finished ruffle for a 36-inch wide towel, cut a fabric strip 5 inches wide and 73 inches long.

Fold under a 1/2-inch hem on the short edges of the ruffle and straight stitch them in place. Fold the fabric strip right sides together to make a long strip. The folded example strip would be 2 1/2 inches wide. Stitch the long edges together 1/2 inch from the raw edges. Leave the ends open. Turn the resulting tube of fabric right side out and press it flat with the seam in the center back of the tube.

Sew a row of long basting stitches about 1/8 inch from one pressed edge of the flat fabric tube. Sew a second row of long basting stitches 1/4 inch from the first row, keeping the same side of the tube facing up. Gently pull the bobbin threads of both rows of stitches at the same time to gather the fabric tube, creating a ruffle.

Pin the ruffle in place on the towel, pinning through the gathering threads and arranging the gathers evenly with your fingers. Place the ruffle along the lower edge, or measure an even distance from the lower edge for placement. Sew through the gathers along the pinned edge. Pull out the gathering threads.

Conceal the gathered edge of the ruffle by covering it with a decorative ribbon trim, or hem the long edges of a narrow strip of fabric and straight stitch it in place over the gathers. Embellish the strip with machine embroidery, if desired.

Machine Ruffler

Measure the width of the towel and cut a fabric strip double the measurement plus 1 inch. Cut the strip the depth of the finished ruffle plus 1 inch.

Make a hem by folding under 1/4 inch along one long edge and pressing, then fold under another 1/4 inch and press. Stitch the folded hem along the long edge.

Install the ruffler attachment following specific instructions for your sewing machine. Feed the long raw edge of the fabric strip under the ruffler attachment and sew. The ruffler gathers the fabric evenly and securely stitches the gathers in place in one operation.

Fold under a 1/4-inch hem twice on the side edges of the ruffle and sew in place. Pin the ruffle to the towel. Straight stitch the ruffle to the towel along the gathered edge. Sew decorative ribbon trim over the gathered edge of the ruffle to finish the application, folding under the ends of the ribbon at each edge.

Items you will need

  • Towels
  • Fabric or pre-ruffled trim
  • Ruler
  • Sewing shears
  • Sewing machine
  • Thread
  • Iron
  • Straight pins
  • Ribbon, optional
  • Ruffler attachment, optional


  • Use a sharp needle and medium-length, straight stitches with terry cloth. A wide foot helps the thick cloth feed smoothly under the needle. If the feed's dog-teeth catch on the terry cloth, place a strip of tissue paper under the fabric along the stitching line. Sew normally through the tissue and the terry cloth, then tear away the tissue after stitching. A washing machine easily removes remaining wisps of tissue.
  • Experiment with imaginative ruffle applications, such as adding tiers of overlapped ruffles, embroidering a monogram above the ruffle in coordinating colors, or sewing a decorative edge stitch or tiny, 1/4-inch lace to the ruffle’s edge before gathering.
  • Check the manual that came with your machine for specific instructions when using a ruffler attachment.


  • Singer Sewing Book, Singer Sewing Machine Company; Mary Brooks Picken, 1953
  • Singer Featherweight Manual, Singer Sewing Company: Ruffler Attachment Instructions

About the Author

Fern Fischer's print and online work has appeared in publications such as Midwest Gardening, Dolls, Workbasket, Quilts for Today and Cooking Fresh. With a broader focus on organic gardening, health, rural lifestyle, home and family articles, she specializes in topics involving antique and modern quilting, sewing and needlework techniques.

Photo Credits

  • George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images